I’m not so much worried about the Canucks inability to defend leads as I am in their inability to come back when the going gets tough.
After Vegas took their second 5-4 lead of the hockey game (the first having been wiped out by a stray camera lens, and people say the media hurt the team), rather than pushing, the Canucks failed to mount any attack at 5v5.
From that point on, the Canucks held just an 8-6 lead in entry attempts (and recovered just 1 of 5 dump-in attempts), were out-attempted 8-3 in shots, and out-chanced 4-1.
The highlight for the team after the go-ahead goal was an Elias Pettersson kick save with the net empty.
Sometimes what you see is all there is. We’re past the point that the Canucks can be analyzed to see whether they can get back into the playoff race in 2022-23. It’s nearly time for the autopsy. It’s unclear just how much left this group has together.
A season ago at this point, the Tuesday before American Thanksgiving, the Canucks were 27th in the NHL in points percentage, but 15th in corsi for percentage and 23rd in scoring chance percentage. This season, they’re 30th, 25th, and 25th in the same categories. They’ve added to the group that they had a year ago and are still worse. They’re still worse despite picking up multiple extra goals on shots that aren’t scoring chances, one of the elite powerplays in the NHL, and a dominant two-way season from the team’s best player.
I don’t know how the management can’t be given the green light to make the major changes to this team that need to be made, a year after they were hired. If management doesn’t want to make those changes and sees this group as being anything close to a competitive team, I don’t know what to tell them. I’ve watched 19 games of this team very closely. I’ve logged over 15,000 puck touches by the Canucks and their opponents, and I can declare this is it.
Again, it isn’t the leads, it’s the complete lack of fight in the Canucks after they give up a lead. Other teams smell it: they know a two-goal deficit against this group is as good as being tied. The team is playing scared and doesn’t want to take the initiative.
This is a stats blog, but the story of this team can’t always be told in the zone entries or the scoring chances or the forced turnovers. It was over the moment AJ Greer knocked Vasily Podkolzin out of the game in Boston during their fight, and no Canucks so much approached Greer the rest of the game. You can’t coach your way out of a team culture that broken.
But, for the hell of it, if you subscribe to see the data, you can see the story play out through the season: how the Canucks fail to generate scoring chances off their strong forecheck, how they fail to defend the rush, how their poor puck management gets them into trouble, and, more importantly, just how good of a season Elias Pettersson is having, particularly in contrast to JT Miller, a player the Canucks made a large investment in this summer but simply doesn’t match up to other elite players on opposing teams game in and game out. Understanding the few strengths and many flaws of this team teaches us about what matters in this sport, and picking apart every small detail helps us imagine what this team will look like when it isn’t broken.
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